The Bush administration has it backward.
As history once again races toward war, this time a possible world war, an organization formed by most of the world’s countries once again faces the threat of losing its relevance — thanks to the United States.
At the conclusion of World War I, the Allied Powers established the League of Nations. The supranational body was to provide collective security through a number of organizations.
The United States didn’t join. President Woodrow Wilson and his successors could not convince Congress to take the next step out of the country’s isolationism. The first step, of course, was the involvement in World War I.
Crippled by the United States’ refusal, the League of Nations was ineffective. It lost the little credibility it had when it failed to prevent the Japanese expansion into Manchuria and China, Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia and Germany’s seizure of Austria. It ceased its activities during World War II.
In 1946, the United Nations Organization was founded.
Today, much like its predecessor, it is on the verge of fading into historical oblivion because of its lack of political power.
On Jan. 29, 2002, the term “axis of evil” was born in President Bush’s first State of the Union address and set the events in motion that invariably seem will lead to war. The address marked the beginning of Bush’s pressuring the United Nations to act against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whom he accuses of secretly producing weapons of mass destruction and collaborating with terrorists.
On Sept. 12, 2002, one year and one day after the attacks on the United States, Bush addressed the Security Council. He spoke of the hope that had created it and the challenge it now faced.
He also warned it against becoming another League of Nations, whose deliberations were mere talk and whose resolutions were nothing but wishes.
In recent weeks, Bush and his administration have increased the pressure on the Security Council. On Sunday, in response to a proposal from France and Germany to triple weapons inspectors and deploy thousands of U.N. troops to Iraq, Bush said the moment of truth has come.
“Time is running out,” Bush said. “The United Nations gets to decide whether or not it is going to be relevant in terms of keeping the peace, whether or not its words mean anything.” Meanwhile, the commander in chief’s forces are moving into position for war.
The Security Council needs to make a statement.
Out of fear of being embarrassed by Saddam, it has allowed the United States to bully it around.
The United Nations’ relevance must be questioned if Saddam continues to go unchecked. But it becomes just as irrelevant if it allows itself to cave under pressure from the United States.
The United States has a long history of preferring pragmatism to principles when it comes to foreign relations. The refusal to sign the Kyoto Treaty, the termination of the ABM treaty with Russia and the dropping of atomic bombs over Japan comes to mind.
One could argue that the United States has expressed enough contempt for other countries to warrant the Security Council to order Bush to sit in the corner for a while.
The United Nations must make a statement and put the United States in its place. If it doesn’t, the organization that was meant to be superior to national governments will become a tool of the world’s most powerful regime.
Alex Zesch is a senior majoring in mass communications.